Just got back from opening night at the Kennedy Center. Overall it was a great evening, progressively getting to the best parts of the program.
Divertimento 15: I loved this piece, such charming choreography that complimented the music so well. The Mozart really brings out how incredible that Kennedy Center Orchestra is-- violin to dream on! Of those cast in the principal roles, Ashley Laracey (grace, poise, and such a strong ability to use her line to draw out the music), Lauren King (technical wonder with such a light-hearted demeanor), and Ashley Bouder (all the normal Ashley Bouder qualities: cheeky and sharp) were tops. This is the first time I had seen Abi Stafford so I really don't have much to say about her quite yet, Erica Pereira continues to fall short for me... I'll say more on that later. Of the men, only Daniel Applebaum stood out in a noticeably positive way-- I really feel that he's underutilized. Chase Finlay fell short (others have enumerated dissatisfaction in the past so I don't feel the need to repeat) and Andrew Scordato just needs a little more time to marinate. On another note: my husband felt that costumes need an uplift, the colors just don't pop the way they need to. (I will confess that I could do without the Prince Charming getup.)
Zakouski: Megan Fairchild was replaced with Indiana Woodward. Things looked a little shaky for her and DeLuz on partnering, in rushing her in to debut a day early I doubt they had much time to rehearse. I also am not convinced that they're a good match for one another, even though I know they've danced together before. DeLuz was tremendous as always, his technical sharpness and calm showyness were perfect here. My companions for the evening really enjoyed the choreography, to me it is very "Peter Martins does Tarantella." (High marks for music selection though, each piece is a joy to listen to and pairs well with the others.)
Pulcinella Variations: Since Fairchild was out of Zakouski, Woodward was out in Pulcinella-- replaced by Lydia Wellington. Per usual for Justin Peck, the community sense in the group numbers is wonderful. I wish there had been a little more humor snuck in to lighten up the more serious pas. Mears, J. Angle, Tiler Peck, and Huxley were wonderful. I especially noticed Claire Kretzschmar's sunny maturity in her line (wish we saw more of her in principal roles outside of the Peck rep), and Emilie Gerrity. (I know she's a favorite of a few of you-- I see why now.) Costumes and set were just lovely for this ballet, completely transporting to a new whimsy world. I really think this is a good example of how costuming can make us see classical works in a fresh way... I'm not suggesting that the company through the Karinska collection in the trash... but certain ballets could use even just an ounce of this kind of brightness.
Tschai Pas: How has Tyler Angle never danced this role? Today was his debut and, all things considering, he did well. You can tell that the partnering is not yet in his bones, but his solo bits were lovely and he did a good job in securing his partner in those daring moves throughout. Tiler Peck truly considers the Kennedy Center to be a home-away-from-home since she's often down here with Damien Woetzel and was here longterm for previews of the never-made-it-to-Broadway "Little Dancer." You can tell she feels incredibly comfortable on the KC Stage-- kills it every time and the audience goes wild. Sometimes I think the choreography here is a little showy on the "tricks," and I prefer a little more subtlety: my favorite parts are when the male dancer takes his hands off the ballerina so she can show off and hold her balances, almost as if she was performing an illusion. Ok, last plug on costumes: The ballerina costume's flowiness is fabulous (even if the peach color is a little dated), but the Little Lord Fauntleroy shirt needs to go!
Symphony in Three Movements: I saw this piece last month in NYC and wasn't completely in love with it, but this performance made it jump considerably higher on my Balanchine's Best List. Most of the cast was identical to the one I saw: Erica Peirera as the jumping girl, Daniel Ulbrict as her partner, Megan LeCrone with Sean Souzzi (saw Joe Gordon in NYC), but the pas pair was new for me. Sterling Hyltin and Adrian Danchig-Waring were simply incredible. So much of that pas is smaller movements in the hands-- it felt like they took up the entire stage with their detached devotion to the pas. Danchig-Waring was so Phlematic and calm, keeping that natural tension high. On the other hand... Erica Pereira and Megan LeCrone just don't do it for me. I feel when I'm watching Pereira that she doesn't have the mature fluidity to make an impact. Her stage aura is diminutive-- her jumps aren't impactful and it feels like she is taking up the least possible room both space-wise and in terms of her ability to command space for the audience's attention. Megan LeCrone is someone who I have always wanted to see more from, but I have continually been disappointed. While Pereira falls short in her physical capability, LeCrone seemingly only suffers from lack of confidence. She did have a tiny fall at the beginning of her pas, but quickly recovered-- but I know from seeing her in this role last month that her flaws tonight weren't because of the fall. Instead of buying into her own abrasiveness, she dumbs her body and movements down-- never fully using what you can clearly see is in here. Her jogs were "cute" instead of serious, and she just lacks a sharpness. If she went for broke and just attacked, I have no doubt she'd be an entirely new dancer. I hope to see that one day!